I had two tests that day. I remember waking up early - at 8 - and walking to the cafeteria in order to get some breakfast before my New Testament test. I remember the sun shining. I remember the air crisp with the promise of a new season.
It wasn't long before I understood this wasn't just another day. Upstairs in the cafeteria, I noticed immediately a bunch of suits standing around the big screen watching the news. Nothing unusual, I thought at first - until I saw one of the men wipe his cheek.
He was crying.
I looked down at my notes and grimaced at the egg-juice stain forming over the New Testament outline. Something hard settled in the pit of my stomache and I felt the urgent need to run back to my room for a quick glance at the news. This feeling only intensified as I walked downstairs. Inside the GC I saw a crowd of students - this time people my own age - staring in disbelief at the television set. My eyes wandered to a guy talking fervently on the payphone.
"They say a plane hit the Pentagon, too. Yeah. A fricken plane, man! This is crazy."
I can't even begin to tell you just how confused I became at this moment. Most people, when you ask what they were doing when they heard the news, they mention ordinary things. Every day things. And then, they say something about it seeming like a bad dream or a movie.
Cue the bad dream.
In a haze I walked back to my dormroom & flipped on the TV. Every channel had the same clips - frantic reporters, burning buildings and curious bystanders watching in dumbfounded glory. I called my dad. He's the one who told me what happened.
He's also who I was talking to when I saw the second plane crash into the WTC.
That's when I started crying.
"What's happening, dad?" I asked.
He didn't have an answer. We sat in silence for a couple more minutes, and then I had to leave - my test was in less than twenty minutes.
I remember calling my boyfriend and him yelling at me for waking him up. I remember me quietly asking him to turn on the news. I remember his quiet reply of a simple curse word when he found out.
I remember the questions on the test and the essay I still had to write.
I remember staring in silence, tears rolling down my face, as the girls in the basement of Kerr Dorm watched the towers fall. I remember not wanting to go to work - but going anyway - and having absolutely no customers so my coworker & I just sat in a booth & watched the news.
I remember the gooseflesh that replaced my own as I began to hear stories of survivors, and I remember the way my heart broke countless times as I began to hear stories of those who lost loved ones.
I remember going to see my boyfriend that weekend & feeling my gut drop when my best friend & I saw a plane fly overhead with what looked like smoke trailing behind it. We had to pull over the side of the road to regain composure it scared us so much.
I remember so much - and yet I am still scared I will forget.
In his article Storytelling can Change your Life, Jason Boyett mentions that every generation has a defining moment - something that undeniably connects them together regardless of background. September 11 is that something for our generation. It's where I came face to face with the depravity of man, but it's also where I first saw how light can shine against the darkness and create a beacon of hope.
It's where I first began to experience community.
Elie Wiesel says that memory is key - that remembering forges links between past and present and creates a hope for our future. Take time to remember today. Refuse to forget. It's only in remembering where we can press on and experience hope.